Soviet Union

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The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) (Russian Сою́з Сове́тских Социалисти́ческих Респу́блик (СССР), Soyuz Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik (SSSR)), also called the Soviet Union (Сове́тский Сою́з, Sovetsky Soyuz), was a state in much of the northern region of Eurasia that existed from 1922 until 1991. The list of republics in the Soviet Union varied over the time. In its final years it consisted of 15 Soviet Socialist Republics (S.S.R.'s). Russia was by far the largest Republic in the Soviet Union, dominating in nearly all respects: land area, population, economics, and political influence. The territory of the Soviet Union also varied, and in its most recent times approximately corresponded to that of the late Imperial Russia, with notable exclusions of Poland and Finland. The political organization of the country was defined by the only recognized political party, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Союз Советских Социалистических Республик
Soyuz Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik
USSR flag
soviet coat of arms
(In Detail) > (Full size)
National motto: Пролетарии всех стран, соединяйтесь (Workers of the world, unite!)
| align=center colspan=2 | Image:LocationSovietUnion.png
Official language Russian
Capital Moscow
 - Total
 - % water

1 E13 m%B2>22,402,200 km2
 - Total
 - Density

293,047,571 (July 1991)
13.08/km2 (July 1991)
 - Declared
 - Recognised

Dissolution 1991
Currency Ruble
Time zone UTC +3 to +11
National anthems The Internationale
Hymn of the Soviet Union
Internet TLD .su

1 History

2 Politics

3 Foreign relations

4 Republics

5 Economy

6 Demographics

7 Culture

8 Holidays

9 Related articles

10 Further reading

11 External links

Table of contents


Main article: History of the Soviet Union.

Revolutionary activity in Russia began with the Decembrist Revolt, uncovered in 1825, and although serfdom was abolished in 1861, its abolition was achieved on terms unfavorable to the peasants and served to encourage revolutionaries. A parliament, the Duma, was established in 1906, but political and social unrest continued and was aggravated during World War I by military defeat and food shortages.

The February Revolution and October Revolutions (see also Russian Revolution) were followed by a period of civil war (see Russian Civil War), after which communist control was complete under the Bolsheviks who soon renamed themselves the Communist Party.

The collapse of Tsarist rule was followed by the eviction of the landlord class and the subdivision of land among peasant families. Poor and middle peasants generally did not benefit from the latter until Lenin announced the New Economic Policy (NEP), which saw an end to government requisitioning of food during the civil war. Peasants marketed most of their produce at free prices during the years of the NEP.

After the death of the Soviet Union's revolutionary founding figure VI Lenin (1924), Joseph Stalin finally emerged as uncontested leader, defeating Leon Trotsky and ultimately having him exiled from the Soviet Union in 1929.

Under Stalin, who replaced Lenin's NEP with five year plans and collective farming, the Soviet Union (established 1922) became a major industrial power, but with effective political opposition eliminated during the 1930s by purges. World War II established the Soviet Union as one of the two major world powers, a position maintained for four decades through military strength, aid to developing countries, and scientific research, especially into space technology and weaponry. Growing tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States, its former wartime ally and the other superpower, led to the Cold War.

Communist Party General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev promoted Soviet glasnost (openness) and perestroika (economic restructuring). A U.S.-Soviet summit meeting in 1986 and 1987 and a meeting of U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev in late 1988 brought a reduction in arms in Europe.

The disintegration of Communist allies in Eastern Europe heralded the dissolution of the Soviet Union. As the Russian republic's Boris Yeltsin eclipsed Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in power, the Soviet Union was peacefully dissolved in December 1991. Most former Soviet republics joined the Commonwealth of Independent States.


Main article: Politics of the Soviet Union

According to the most recent Soviet Constitution of 1977, the Soviet Union theoretically was a federal state consisting of fifteen republics joined together in a voluntary union and the government had a federal structure (see Constitution of the Soviet Union). The government of the Soviet Union implemented decisions made by the Communist Party (see Organization of the Communist Party of the USSR).

The organization of the CPSU was based on democratic centralism, the Leninist method of intraparty decision making. According to democratic centralism, lower party bodies executed the decisions of higher party bodies. The lowest bodies started from the town and district levels, working up to the Central Committee, the highest party body.

The party, using its nomenklatura authority, placed reliable individuals in leadership posts throughout the government. CPSU bodies monitored the actions of government ministries, agencies, and legislative organs. The highest government legislative body was the Supreme Soviet.

The leader of the Communist Party was the General Secretary. The party chief would sometimes hold other positions, such as the state presidency or premiership (see Leadership of the Soviet Union).

See also: Soviet law

Foreign relations

Main article: Foreign relations of the Soviet Union

The Soviet Union was denied recognition by most countries when it was founded in 1922. The Soviet Union joined the League of Nations in 1934, but was expelled in 1939 amid the start of the Winter War. However, World War II established the USSR as one of the two major world powers, a position maintained for four decades through military strength, aid to developing countries, and scientific research, especially into space technology and weaponry.

Soviet foreign policy played a major role determining the tenor of international relations for nearly four decades, and the Soviet Union had official relations with the majority of the nations of the world by the late 1980s. The Soviet Union became a member of the United Nations at its foundation in 1945. It also became one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council which gave it the right to veto any of its resolutions. (see Soviet Union and the United Nations)

The CPSU Central Committee Politburo determined the major foreign policy guidelines. The overarching objectives of Soviet foreign policy were national security and the maintenance of hegemony over the Warsaw Pact.

As the Soviet Union achieved rough nuclear parity with the United States, Cold War superpower competition between the Soviet Union and the U.S. gave way to Détente and a more complicated pattern of international relations in which the world was no longer clearly split into two clearly opposed blocs in the 1960s and 1970s. Less powerful countries had more room to assert their independence, and the two superpowers were partially able to recognize their common interest in trying to check the further spread and proliferation of nuclear weapons (see SALT I, SALT II, Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty). Since the early 1970s, the Soviet Union concluded friendship and cooperation treaties with a number of states in the noncommunist world, especially among Third World and Non-Aligned Movement states.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia claimed to be the legal successor to the Soviet Union on the international stage. Russian foreign policy repudiated Marxism-Leninism as a guide to action, soliciting Western support for capitalist reforms in postcommunist Russia.


Main article: Republics of the Soviet Union.

In its final decades of its existence, the Soviet Union consisted of 15 Socialist Soviet Republics (SSR). Some of these had common history and geographical regions, and were referred by group names. These are Baltic Republics, Transcaucasian Republics, and Central Asian Republics. With the Soviet collapse they all became independent countries, with some still loosely organized under the heading Commonwealth of Independent States.

Soviet Republics Independent states
Armenian SSR Armenia
Azerbaijan SSR Azerbaijan
Byelorussian SSR Belarus
Estonian SSR Estonia
Georgian SSR Georgia
Kazakh SSR Kazakhstan
Kirghiz SSR Kyrgyzstan
Latvian SSR Latvia
Lithuanian SSR Lithuania
Moldavian SSR Moldova
Russian SFSR Russia
Tadzhik SSR Tajikistan
Turkmen SSR Turkmenistan
Ukrainian SSR Ukraine
Uzbek SSR Uzbekistan


Main article: Economy of the Soviet Union

Characteristics Based on a system of state ownership, the Soviet economy was controlled by an elaborate system administrative planning from the drafting of the first Five Year Plan (1928) to the dissolution of the Soviet Union (1991). Major industries (agriculture, banking, communications, public services, trade, and transportation) were controlled by the state's agents through Gosplan (the state planning commission) and Gosbank (the state bank) according to the priorities of the Communist Party. The Soviet planning bureaucracy determined prices, allocation of resources, and distribution of goods and services.

Economic development Industry was long concentrated after 1928 on heavy industry rather than the consumer or agricultural sectors. The emphasis on heavy industry allowed the Soviet Union to emerge as a modern, industrialized superpower at an unbelievable pace without waiting decades for capital accumulation through the expansion of light industry and without reliance on external financing. Overall, indicators of public health and economic welfare showed some incredible improvements, but production in the consumer and agricultural sectors was often inadequate. Crises in the agricultural sector reaped catastrophic consequences in the 1930s under Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.

Growth rates slowed in the 1960s. They then stagnated since the mid-1970s, borne out of the cumbersome procedures of administrative planning. This encouraged attempts to implement economic reform (Perestroika) in the 1980s. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, most former Soviet Republics, including the largest (Russia), have moved toward a system of private ownership and market-based allocation of resources.


Main article: Demographics of the Soviet Union

The Soviet Union was one of the world's most ethnically diverse countries, with more than 100 distinct national ethnicities living within its borders. The total population was estimated at 293 million in 1991. The Soviet Union was so large, in fact, that even after all associated republics gained independence, Russia remains the largest country by area, and remains quite ethnically diverse, including, e.g., minorities of Tatars, Udmurts, and many other non-Russian ethnicities.



Date >

English Name

Local Name

January 1 New Year's Day

Новый Год

January 7 Eastern Orthodox Christmas

Православное Рождество

February 23 Red Army Day

День Советской Армии и Военно-Морского Флота

February Revolution, 1917,
Formation of the Red Army, 1918 Is currently called День Защитника Отечества
March 8 International Women's Day

Международный Женский День

May 1 International Labor Day (May Day)

Первое Мая - День Солидарности Трудящихся

May 9 Victory Day

День Победы

Great Patriotic War, marked by capitulation of Nazi Germany, 1945
November 7-November 8 Great October Socialist Revolution

Седьмое Ноября

October Revolution 1917; it is currently called День Примирения и Согласия;

Related articles

Main article: List of Soviet Union-related topics.

Further reading

  • Brown, Archie, and others, eds. THE CAMBRIDGE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF RUSSIA AND THE SOVIET UNION. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982.
  • Gilbert, Martin. ATLAS OF RUSSIAN HISTORY. Great Britain: Dorset Press, 1985.
  • Goldman, Minton. THE SOVIET UNION AND EASTERN EUROPE. Connecticut: Global Studies, Dushkin Publishing Group, Inc., 1986.
  • Howe, G. Melvyn. THE SOVIET UNION: A GEOGRAPHICAL STUDY. Second edition. Great Britain: MacDonald and Evans, Ltd., 1983.
  • Katz, Lev, and others. HANDBOOK OF MAJOR SOVIET NATIONALITIES. New York: The Free Press, 1975.

External links